Fall Practice Report: Day Eight

The defense rose to the occasion Monday and was more assignment-sound. They caused a couple of things to happen that haven't occurred during fall camp thus far, including recording two interceptions of Max Hall. Meanwhile, coaches are trying to sort out the running back rotation as the return of Manase Tonga is still in question.

"It was more assignment-sound by the defense today," observed head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "I think the defense was more execution-sound today. "

Max Hall finished the practice going 7-of-12 for 78 yards with passes picked off by Craig Bills and Jared Richardson. Hall finished strong however, throwing a 35-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Andrew George.

"Those won't necessarily be his last two," said Mendenhall regarding Hall's interceptions. "That we've gone this far in camp without any is a positive sign. I think this is the first time since I've been head coach that we've gone through the first week of camp without any. Even though there were two today, I don't think it overshadows what he's done to this point."

Hall also sustained an injury to one of the fingers on his throwing hand during the practice. The official word out of BYU was that it was a dislocated finger, but Hall did continue to play in 11-on-11s after getting hurt, and it was after his injury that he led the touchdown drive with the 35-yard pass to Andrew George.

Blocked Kicks

A rather frequent occurrence during camp so far has been blocked field goals. According to Mendenhall, it's something they've been working on, and he is happy to see the success of his kick-block team being able to get at least four blocks so far this fall.

"It's been a point of emphasis and it's coming from the same side," said Mendenhall about the blocked kicks. "We're experimenting with different personnel there. The scheme isn't an issue, as we've haven't had issues before as to where they're being blocked from, so we're looking for the right personnel to best do it and it still needs some work."

Monday it was Brandon Bradley's turn, as he came around the edge to get a hand on a field goal attempt by Mitch Payne.

Running Options

While coaches patiently await word of the return of Manase Tonga, they've had to go about preparing as if he won't be here. With all of their fullbacks on the roster having no experience, replacing Tonga isn't an easy task.

Running backs coach Lance Reynolds has been optimistic about each of them, but won't be playing them if they can't be trusted with the myriad assignments involved with playing in the Cougar backfield.

"We're using Braden Brown, Anthony Heimuli and Jo Jo Pili, along with Peni Maka'afi," said Reynolds about the players vying for playing time at fullback. "Right now we have three guys who I trust in Harvey [Unga], Bryan Kariya and J.J. [Di Luigi]. Right now I'm trying to find that fourth and fifth guys and it's between Braden Brown and the freshmen coming in."

What those true freshmen will have to show is that they simply can be trusted in their various assignments. Reynolds requires his running backs and fullbacks to be trustworthy in their blocking assignments, in knowing how to run good passing routes, and in running the football before they can warrant game preparation.

"All of them are certainly talented enough, we know that," commented Reynolds. "Now they just need to know where to go, how they see the blocking, and most importantly understand how we're doing things and how to react. They also have to make plays. All of them are certainly talented enough."


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